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What's the cost of bringing up a baby? (*and how to slash those bills)

Ahead of the Pregnancy and Baby Fair this Saturday and Sunday at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, two families reveal the eye-watering bills that a newborn can run up

By Stephanie Bell

Nothing brings more joy than the prospect of a newborn baby, but preparing to bring that little life into the world can be a costly business.

The days when the kitchen sink served as a perfectly acceptable baby bath and a drawer proved a comfy and safe Moses basket are long gone as almost half of us (48%) fork out an astonishing £2,000 to £3,000 on essentials for our new babies.

The bulk of this small fortune is spent on prams, baby seats and nursery items such as changing tables and cots, according to a new survey conducted by the Pregnancy & Baby Fair.

The survey revealed that only 29% of expectant parents will use hand-me-downs from family and friends.

And as well as expensive equipment, the findings also showed that 80% of local parents are also spending at least £500 on childcare every month, with 19% spending at least £1,000.

This weekend will see the fair come to Belfast for the first time when it sets up in the Odyssey Arena on Saturday and Sunday (March 7 and 8).

It offers a chance for mums and dads to see and buy the latest in pregnancy and baby products from the leading brands, while also accessing free pregnancy advice and early childhood parenting tips from a host of experts.

Organisers Claire Finnan (34) and Jennifer Shaw (30), are managing directors of Huggy Bloom Enterprises and first came to national prominence on RTE show Dragons' Den - the women made TV history when they became the first candidates to secure backing from all five Dragons.

Their exciting exhibition idea, the Pregnancy & Baby Fair, was phenomenally successful to the extent that Huggy Bloom Enterprises was able to buy out all five Dragons in 2010.

With footfall in excess of 23,000 people at a recent Dublin event, the women want to continue to build on their success and are excited at bringing the event to Northern Ireland.

Prior to their Belfast visit they surveyed local parents and found that not only do we splash out a fortune on our first newborns but second time round we will spend another £1,000. Again, prams and car seats were the biggest buys.

"Having a baby or expanding your family is expensive, and you will have enough keeping you awake at night without the added pressure of baby bills," says Jennifer Shaw.

"The essence of our exhibition is to provide parents, and parents-to-be, with everything they need for them and their baby under one roof. Parents will have the opportunity to try, test and buy the best and safest baby products.

"We are delighted to now be able to share this with the Northern Ireland public.

"Our research has shown that areas such as nutrition, weaning, sleep and health and safety are of paramount importance to parents."

Among the expert panel who will be on hand to address concerns are Lucy Wolfe, a leading sleep doctor specialising in infant and child sleep problems; Siobhan Berry, a weaning expert and nutritionist, and health and safety experts like the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Red Cross who will be on hand to give first aid tips for parents with babies and young children.

We spoke to two mums who took time out to tot up the cost of having their babies and although they both knew they had spent a lot of money, the final totals still managed to surprise them.

Clare and David: spent more than £1,500 on child number one...

Clare Beswick (30), from Belfast, is mum to Finn (4) and Erin, who is one. Clare works in retail marketing and is married to David (33), a quantity surveyor.

Even though when expecting their first baby they were fortunate to be given some equipment such as a cot and buggies, they still were surprised when the total cost of their spend topped £1,500.

Clare says: “We spent roughly the same on both babies as we wanted new girly stuff for Erin. Even though we had quite a few hand-me-downs, we still spent a lot of money.

“I don’t think until you sit down and add it all up, you realise just how much it does cost and we were taken aback by the total.”

Shopping for a pram which also served as a baby travel system with a car seat which clicks off and straight into the car proved the most expensive single purchase for the couple at £700.

It is a car seat which is only suitable for a newborn, however, and so when the couple’s children reached nine-months-old, they had the additional cost of a new seat. Clare says she learnt many lessons after her firstborn and was able to save some money second time round.

“We didn’t have to buy a cot as we got one given to us, but even dressing the cot became expensive,” she says. “As a first-time mum I bought all the hypoallergenic sheets.

“Second time round I wised up and bought a couple of cot sheets and blankets which were a fraction of the price. I also bought quite a lot of stuff on Amazon which was so much cheaper.

“First time I had to have these special bottles which were supposed to help with colic and of course they didn’t, so I saved on buying ordinary ones with Erin.

“I also bought a nappy bin with Finn which was completely useless. I’ve realised there are many ways to save money, and my advice would be to talk to other mums and ask them what products they are using and would recommend.

“At first I only used a top brand of nappies and then someone told me about Little Angel nappies in Asda which were half the price and I now use those.

“Hand-me-downs are great and my advice would be to take what you can because your baby grows out of things so quickly.”

Liz and Colin: spent more than £2,000 on child number one...

Liz Rafferty (42) is a finance director from Bangor and is looking forward to getting married in April to Colin Grant (41), an engineer. The couple have two children, Cameron (5) and Erin, who is one.

When she tots up what they bought for their babies, Liz estimates that they spent at least £2,000.

Liz says they were so excited to be expecting their first child that they splashed out on all new items.

However, second time round the couple were a bit more restrained in their spending as like Clare they, too, had learned lessons on what is and is not essential.

Liz says: “Most of our money went on nursery furniture, a Moses basket and crib, a pram, and I also spent an absolute fortune on clothes.

“You learn that they grow up so quickly when they are babies that they don’t get to wear half the clothes and I ended up giving so much away.

“Second time round because I was having a wee girl and everything was so cute I did spend a lot of money, but we also learned from our first child.

“We didn’t spend £150 for a new Moses basket and instead bought a secondhand one and a new mattress.

“We just thought if we could buy things like car seats and high chairs secondhand, it would be more sensible although we still spent a fortune.

“I’m sure we spent £2,000 or more first time round and although we had a lot of the stuff we needed, we still spent about £750 the second time.

“We are lucky we both work and I was very organised and bought things as I went along which helps when you are handing out such large sums. It is still a lot of money.

“The website North Down Mums is very good for getting good quality secondhand baby equipment and we got some things on there.

“You also buy things you don’t need. We spent £100 on a Jumparoo for Cameron which he hated and £80 on a rocker chair for Erin which she hated.

“On the site you find things people hardly used and it can save a lot of money.

“We are now finding childcare extremely expensive. I’m lucky Cameron is at school now, but we are still paying a substantial £800 a month. People need to factor in that cost.”

The Pregnancy & Baby Fair research also found that...

  • Despite our love of technology, only 10% of mums-to-be announced their pregnancy to family and friends on social media, with 34% of new mums sharing their news before the traditional 12-week mark
  • Research also found that 43% of parents found out the sex of their child prior to birth and that 62% chose the name for their little one while they were pregnant
  • At 60%, Kate Middleton came top of the poll as our favourite, most glamorous mum; Victoria Beckham came a distant second with only 14% of the poll
  • Tickets for the Pregnancy & Baby Fair this Saturday and Sunday in the Odyssey Arena are £7.50 per adult and available at the Odyssey Box Office and at the door on both days
  • The event also has dedicated children’s entertainers and play areas to keep little ones entertained
  • Visitors will have exclusive access to more than 50 retailers and exhibitors, discounts, special offers and competition prizes
  • For further information check out www.pregnancyandbabyfairni.com

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